Social media: how to fight nice

I took a few days off last week and as a consequence found myself delving into the lives of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry through the medium of Heat magazine. Both are two vastly famous and successful young women who seemed to have managed to evade the curse of a bad reputation.

Although both of them have had plenty of tabloid coverage — mostly thanks to bad boy romances/marriages and the public’s general obsession with what they wear – we don’t tend to associate them with these mistakes as much as we do with perky pop success. As a result of their relatively unbesmirched reputations – difficult in PR terms for people who are quite so famous – I was quite surprised recently to discover that these two are quite well known for that tenuous publicity seeking tactic: the celebrity feud.

Even more interesting, the feud was with each other. Katy Perry and Taylor Swift have been engaged in a long running row that apparently dates back all the way to 2012. The most interesting part of this locking of superstar horns is that neither of these women has actually ever mentioned the other one by name. Taylor Swift first referred to it (although not to Perry directly) during an interview with Rolling Stone in August 2014 and we recently saw the two apparently cross swords on Twitter when Perry seemed to call out Swift over remarks made to Nicki Minaj concerning MTV VMA nominees for video of the year and best choreography.

But other than that, there’s very little out there for such a potentially juicy story. Unlike other celebrity battles, this one hasn’t left either party limping and bloody. But how have these two managed to have such a perfect feud? From what I can see it appears to be as a result of carefully avoiding the following:

1. Publicity seeking from another celebrity.

Many feuds are started by a lesser celebrity looking to get into the limelight of a more famous person – by starting a fight with them. Let’s take Katie Hopkins as an example – she has started arguments on Twitter with, well, pretty much everyone and the motivation appears, apparently, to simply be to stir up trouble and/or to re-plaster her face back over the gossip pages.

Reputation impact? Other than tawdry panel shows most people now wouldn’t touch Hopkins with a barge pole. Neither Perry nor Swift is this desperate.

2. Celebrities who just don’t care.

If you’re just SO FAMOUS that your actions don’t have consequences for you then a high profile spat is just no big deal. Let’s take One Direction who have kept their feud going with producer Naughty Boy, now working with ex-Directioner Zayn Malik, to the point of jumping on a piñata with his face on live on stage.

Reputation impact? Let’s be honest, most people are still talking about the Tomlinson baby. However, Perry and Swift both rely on being perceived as ‘nice,’ so despite the mega fame, this kind of recklessness was never an option.

3. Drunk in charge of social media.

Like anyone with a Twitter account after a few drinks, sometimes celebrities get a bit trigger-happy. Of course most of these tweets get swiftly deleted but thanks to the wonder of the Internet the venom remains. For example, Lindsay Lohan drunkenly calling out ex-girlfriend Samantha Ronson for cheating – in front of 9+ million followers.

Reputation impact? bad. It’s just not possible to retract a drunk tweet if you’ve got a following of millions. Perry and Swift apparently don’t indulge like normal humans or are wise enough to have someone confiscate their phones if they do so the feud never escalates into drunken name-calling.

4. Holding your hands up when you’re wrong.

Celebrities (like politicians) will often go to great lengths to avoid admitting fault but this is often the fastest way to stop a situation escalating.

Case in point: Taylor Swift’s aforementioned row with Nicky Minaj actually ended with a Swift apology of the most honest kind: “I thought I was being called out. I missed the point, I misunderstood, then misspoke. I’m sorry, Nicki.” Result? End of feud and lots of heart emojis directed from Minaj to Swift. And the lesson here is? You can still preserve a polished public reputation without being devoid of personality – as long as you don’t tweet when drunk and there are no piñatas involved.

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